ATL survey finds support staff increasingly having to teach lessons

Press release
13 February 2017 by ATL Media Office
Increased numbers of support staff are having to teach lessons, according to a survey of almost 1,000 support staff members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

When support staff are acting as cover supervisors, almost eight in ten (78%) feel the work they do is identical to that done by supply teachers, placing even greater burden on the shoulders of support staff. And worryingly, this has increased by 14% from last year (64%).

Almost three quarters (72%) of respondents believe it is not possible to only supervise a class without delivering a lesson. The role of a cover supervisor is to supervise pupils work but not teach.

A teaching assistant (TA) in a primary academy in Buckinghamshire said: “We are expected to deliver high-quality lessons not just supervise the class.”

A higher-level teaching assistant (HTLA) in a secondary school in Durham said: “We are told sometimes with only five minutes or less notice that we are covering lessons. We are expected to teach students.”

A cover supervisor in a secondary academy in Hampshire said they: “always have to teach the lesson”.

A librarian in a secondary school in Sussex said: “On occasion, no teacher has turned up with a class - not something that I am happy about as I have other children also being sent to the library for books, laptops, to use a PC or print out work, whom I need to see, and I am not paid to teach.”

A cover supervisor in an academy in Swindon said that: “Very rarely do we not teach.”

Over a quarter (29%) also said they are expected to carry out the full range of duties of a teacher, even though they are paid at a support staff rate.

Support staff are coming under intense pressure from a heavy workload with three quarters (75%) saying they must work extra hours because their workload demands it.

Almost a third (32%) said they work over four hours extra each week and of those, 11% stated they are working more than seven hours extra a week.

A TA in a primary school in Bath said: “I am very much expected to work extra hours and have been led to believe I would lose my job if I didn't work extra without pay.”

The majority of support staff who responded (73%) said they are having to work extra hours for no extra pay.

Almost half of respondents (48%) said the number of support staff in their school has decreased, with many stating anecdotally that when staff leave, they are not being replaced.

An HTLA in a secondary academy in Gloucestershire said: “As staff are leaving they are not being replaced, and other already overworked staff are being asked to take on more duties.”

A cover supervisor in a secondary academy in Lincolnshire said: “When teaching staff leave they are not being replaced and more supply staff are brought in. We have gone from five cover supervisors to just two.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “As these results show, support staff are feeling the pressure to actually teach lessons and to plug the gap in staff shortages when teachers leave and do not get replaced. As the Government continues to squeeze school budgets, there simply aren’t enough funds to replace staff.

“It is worrying that this year more support staff feel the work they do when acting as cover supervisor is identical to that done by supply teachers, with an increase of 14%. Support staff are struggling under excessive workloads as much as teachers and this survey shows that, sadly, support staff feel over-utilised and undervalued.

“It is unacceptable that so many support staff are working longer hours and are not being paid for them. Even more so, they are feel that having to work longer hours because their workload demands it.”

Further notes:  

Responses from 988 ATL members working as support staff in state-funded and academy schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. The survey was carried out in Winter 2016. 

Key stats:

Do you consider the work you do when acting as cover supervisor to be identical to that done by supply teachers?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 77.6% 309
No 14.8% 59
Don't know 7.5% 30
  • Answered question: 398
  • Skipped question: 590

Has it been possible to supervise the class without engaging in specified work i.e. delivering lessons?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 27.5% 113
No 72.5% 298
  • Answered question: 411
  • Skipped question: 577

Are you expected to carry out the full range of duties of a teacher, even though you are paid at support staff rate?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 28.9% 245
No 71.1% 602
  • Answered question: 847
  • Skipped question: 141

If you work extra hours is it because: (please tick all that are applicable)

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Your school demands that you do 5.5% 45
Your workload demands it 74.8% 612
You take on extra work because you want to 21.8% 178
It is expected that you do 21.6% 177
  • Answered question: 818
  • Skipped question: 170

How many extra hours over your contracted hours do you regularly work per week?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
None 16.9% 160
1-3 hours 47.7% 452
4-6 hours 23.9% 227
7-10 hours 8.3% 79
11 hours and over 3.2% 30
  • Answered question: 948
  • Skipped question: 40

To the best of your knowledge, has the number of support staff at the school:

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Increased 23.6% 229
Stayed the same 24.9% 241
Decreased 47.6% 461
  • Answered question: 969
  • Skipped question: 19

Do you get paid for working extra hours?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 13.6% 117
No 72.6% 623
Sometimes 13.8% 118
  • Answered question: 858
  • Skipped question: 130
Tagged with: 
Workload and hours